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BBC Investigation Uncovers Cruel treatment of Game Birds

An investigation by Inside Out London has revealed the shocking conditions endured at three breeding sites for game birds. The birds are bred for shooting, a sport which generates £140 million for the economy. Unfortunately, game birds are offered little protection under animal welfare laws.

Dangerous Cages for Games Birds

Many thousands of game birds are being held in cages which can lead to serious injuries and even premature death. One farm was holding 25,000 birds but reporters discovered carcasses of pheasants which has been cannibalised or pecked to death by other birds. This would have happened because the birds were suffering from enormous stress due to being held in overcrowded pens. The birds are used to produce chicks for various shooting estates around the country.

Worse Conditions than Chickens

The type of conditions which the birds are forced to endure are already illegal for chickens. Some of the cages afforded a space barely larger than a sheet of A4 paper for each bird. The cages were poorly designed and could cause damage to the birds’ feet and heads.

Decapitated Birds

At a second farm the reporters found decapitated birds hanging out of their cages. They had been beheaded whilst trying to free themselves from the torment of their living conditions.

Inadequate Protection for Game Birds

Game birds are not reared for food and so do not enjoy the same legal protection as chickens. There is a code of practice which is meant to safeguard the birds and requires their keepers to house them in a suitable environment. Keepers are also required to possess the necessary knowledge of animal husbandry. Clearly not! The code is enforced by an executive agency of Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) called the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

The Countryside Alliance

Sadly, the Countryside alliance which is a pro-shooting organisation, maintains that the cages are suitable homes for game birds and that the problem is confined to a few rogue keepers. The situation for the birds may well get worse as there has been a large increase in demand for game meats in pubs and restaurants.

The Situation According to Defra

A Defra spokesperson said: "The government shares the public's high regard for animal welfare and we are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.

"Every operational livestock farm, regardless of scale, must comply with all relevant legislation, including comprehensive environmental and animal welfare rules."


Something is clearly going wrong and many birds are suffering terribly as a result of their inadequate housing. The government does not seem to be taking a keen enough interest in what is happening at the farms. Perhaps it is time that it did.


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